The Japan Times featured an excellent article last week about the latest trend of iede (家出) web sites where young girls who have run away from home look for kami (神 – god) or men who will take them temporarily off the streets in trade for sex or other favors. Some of the girls are aged 13 or younger, and use the sites to not only find protection, but also money.
Observers say such sites have emerged because the operators and male users want to dodge new laws on “deaikei,” or “encounter sites” (where members of the opposite sex can meet), that ban people under 18 from using them, diminishing the chance they will attract underage girls.
“If you regulate one type of Web site, users will go to another,” said Atsufumi Suzuki, an expert on Internet activity. Runaway sites first emerged about five years ago, he said.
With online encounter sites flourishing as a hotbed for sex with minor girls seeking pocket money, a law was introduced in 2003 that bans under-18 users and, since last year, requires site operators to register with authorities and confirm the identity of their users.
Read the full article here: ‘Runaway sites’ latest Net-based exploitation of young girls
We asked Shihoko Fujiwara of Polaris Project for her thoughts on the issue, and she had this to say:
Polaris Project Japan has known for sometime that SNS sites are sometimes used by criminals to target victims for commercial sexual exploitation, including trafficking, and we’ve known that runaway underage girls are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
(Recently, the Internet had become the place for girls to find boyfriends and enjo kosai (compensated dating/teen prostitution) partners. These girls are so alone that they have to find solstice in someone they can’t even see. They talk about their situation to strangers on the Internet because they feel they can’t tell friends or teachers. Working with those facts, we think making a Q&A on the Net using these girls’ own words would be most effective, and created own mobile site for runaways.)
This article confirms that where these two meet — the “iede saito” — is most dangerous for at-risk girls. This is one of the reasons we launched our on-line SOS site for teen-age girls and young women (www.POL214.com). The internet is a wonderful tool for connecting people, but it can also pose risk to those who are already vulnerable. Polaris Project Japan is committed to take the fight against sex trafficking to what is now ground-zero for traffickers — the internet — to help women fight back.
Jake Adelstein, an editor of this site and a board member of Polaris Project Japan, also had this to say:
Japan doesn’t have an effective support system for teenage girls or boys that run away from home. There are some shelters but in general the response of the police or authorities upon finding runaway children is to return them to the same abusive homes they fled from in the first place. Japan’s laudatory enforcement of anti-human trafficking laws has made it more difficult for traffickers to exploit foreign women and it seems to be the case that they are now setting their sites on Japan’s rootless teenagers, both boys and girls, as the new chattel for sexual slavery and exploitation. The business model of human traffickers relies on paying the sex workers/sex slaves as little as possible or nothing, and they have become very adept at recruiting young exploitable girls over the web. They (the traffickers) extend what appears to be a helping hand and then get a death grip on the girls and put them to work–as prostitutes, as porn actresses, as escorts, as massage girls–whatever they can be used for to make money. The men they see as benevolent “gods” often turn out to just be demons in disguise.